Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Old Soldiers and Czar Berwick

I spent part of the morning at the VA hospital for my annual physical. As always, I was impressed with how smoothly the whole system runs. As soon as I arrived I checked in and within five minutes I was downstairs at the lab. Soon I was called in for the blood draw. Zip/zop, I was in and out of the lab within 15 minutes.

From there I headed to my primary care clinic. After a short wait I was called back for the initial exam by a nurse who took vital signs and then asked about my drinking habits, my mood (“have you been sad lately?”), and tried to determine if I was suicidal.

She led me back to the waiting area, and within 15 minutes my primary care physician appeared and called me back to his office. Dr.P is a slightly built black man not much younger than I. He’s the father of a college student who’s studying nursing at UT, and he rides a Harley Sportster. And he wears Western boots.(I conducted my own exam.) Initially I sat next to him as he updated my health history, asking about my mom’s hip replacement surgery, my exercise habits, and aches and pains.

Then came the snap of latex and the requisite poking, prodding, head turning and coughing. Then we sat back down and Dr. P finished with his recommendations. “Cut down on salt, think about swimming for exercise, call me if you need me. Otherwise, I’ll see you in a year.” We shook hands, exchanged pleasantries, and I was headed home, all within two hours.

While we sat and visited I began thinking about what healthcare might look like in 5 or ten years as Obamacare becomes a reality. It occurs to me that it’s quite possible, under the leadership of Donald Berwick, the new health czar, that old guys like me might be treated like McArthur’s old soldiers and be left to just fade away. I lived for years on C Rations. I don’t want to have to try and exist on healthcare rationing.

Then I thought of my special friend, Clifford, who just represented our community at the national Special Olympics in Nebraska. What kind of care would be afforded to him and those who are less than “perfect?”

In the light of the return to privatization of the British health care system, a system over which Czar Berwick drools, we need to take a long hard at where Obamacare is taking us. It’s a system destined for failure, as the collapse of the British system demonstrates.

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